Q1. What Is A Safe Room? What Are The Design Requirements For A FEMA Safe Room?

A1.  A safe room is a hardened structure specifically designed to protect its occupants from extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. The level of protection provided by a safe room is a function of its design parameters, including the design wind speed, wind pressure and wind-borne debris impacts.
Safe rooms constructed in accordance with FEMA guidance are intended to provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events. To be considered a FEMA safe room, the safe room must be designed and constructed in accordance with the criteria specified in FEMA P-361 – to which the drawings in FEMA P-320 were designed – as well as all applicable federal, state and local codes. When questions arise pertaining to the differences between FEMA P-361 and another code or standard, the most conservative criteria should apply.

Q2. What Is The Difference Between A Residential Safe Room And A Community Safe Room?

A2. A residential safe room serves occupants of dwelling units and has an occupant load of 16 persons or fewer. A community safe room is any safe room not defined as a residential safe room. The prescriptive solutions presented in FEMA P-320 may also be applied to community safe rooms if additional detailing and considerations are made to accommodate the unique requirements of community safe rooms (see Section 4.2.1 of FEMA P-320 for more information).

Q3. Should I Have A Safe Room?

A3. Chapter 2 of FEMA P-320 provides information to help homeowners determine whether their home needs a safe room. Building owners should ask themselves several questions when considering whether to install a safe room:
• How likely is it that a tornado or hurricane will affect my building?
• What existing refuge options do I have if a tornado or hurricane occurs in my location?
• What level of safety would make me comfortable?
• How feasible is it to construct a safe room and what are the costs?
Section 2.5 of FEMA P-320 includes guidance to help building owners determine the level of risk posed by these extreme events and can help people decide whether to install a safe room.
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Jon Jouvenaux

Author Jon Jouvenaux

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